Discovery of the RNA building block on the Ryugu asteroid

This discovery supports the idea that the building blocks of life are created in space and may have been deposited on Earth by space rocks.

While analyzing material from the Ryugu asteroid, scientists come across uracil, among other things. Special discovery. Uracil is a building block of ribonucleic acid, better known as RNA: a molecule that contains instructions for the “building” and functioning of living things.

Vitamin B3
In addition to uracil, the researchers also found nicotinic acid, also known as vitamin B3, in the substance. This substance plays an important role in the metabolism.

other biological molecules
“We found uracil in small amounts in the samples,” says researcher Yasuhiro Ohba. This relates to concentrations of 6-32 ppb (parts per billion). Vitamin B3 was most abundant at a concentration of 49 to 99 ppb. In addition, we also found other organic molecules in the sample.” Including a selection of amino acids that are part of proteins or play a role in metabolism.

As mentioned, the researchers discovered the material in materials from Ryugu. This material was obtained when the space shuttle Hayabusa2 descended to the asteroid’s surface in 2019 to take samples from it. The collected material was then deposited on the ground in December 2020 for analysis.

valuable samples
Of course, this isn’t the first time researchers have investigated the composition of meteorites. But earlier they had to do this mainly with space rocks that were blown off the surface of the Earth. However, samples now collected on a space rock that are already in space are somehow more valuable, Ohba explains. “Scientists have previously discovered nucleobases and vitamins in some carbon-rich meteorites, but the question has always been whether they were contaminated (with these materials) through exposure to the terrestrial environment.” In other words, it cannot be ruled out that those nucleobases and vitamins ended up on those space rocks after the meteorites landed. “Since Hayabusa2 took two samples from the Ryugu asteroid and delivered them to Earth in sealed capsules, contamination can be ruled out.”

Last year, scientists actually got their first look at the material collected at Ryugu. The samples were found to contain some of the purest material from the early years of our solar system that scientists had ever seen. Subsequent analysis later revealed that the asteroid was rich in organic molecules. In the materials were already at that time Including amino acids. The researchers could not find sugars and nucleobases at that time. “They may be there, but in amounts far too small for us to detect in the relatively small amount of material we had available for this study,” researcher Daniel Glavin of NASA Goddard said at the time. Now Japanese researchers have succeeded in proving the presence of nuclear bases on the space rock.

to discovery That Ryugu still in space contains vitamins and nuclear bases, the theory that the building blocks of life — such as nuclear bases — are formed in space is gaining ground. These building blocks of life are believed to have been deposited on Earth by asteroids and comets in the past. There then they contributed to the creation of life.

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Later this year, the US space probe OSIRIS-REx will deliver materials collected on the asteroid Bennu to Earth. By studying the composition of this asteroid with that material and comparing it to that of Ryugu, scientists hope to strengthen the above theories and refine them where necessary.

Megan Vasquez

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